Teens Teach Senior Citizens Social Media
Social Media for Seniors
Keeping in touch through Twitter and Facebook is a great way for seniors to stay connected. Find out how easy it can be to access social media sites.
By Dennis Thompson Jr., HealthDay News
Medically Reviewed by Farrokh Sohrabi, MD
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Carolyn Gillman never had much use for Twitter until after she retired last year from her job as an Illinois state worker. Then, at 58, Gillman began to become more politically active and found herself drawn to the constant stream of insider info that Twitter provides.
"I kind of like to be on Twitter so I can vent my political views a little bit more," said Gillman, who lives in Springfield, Ill. "I love Facebook, I'm on there all the time, but Facebook is non-political. On Twitter, I can follow people with interesting points of view and blow off steam."
Gillman is part of a growing wave of seniors who have started participating in social media sites. They've found that these sites are great for keeping in touch with friends and family, staying involved in the world, and having a bit of fun.
"As people get older, they can have a sense of isolation," said Tammy Gordon, vice president of social media for AARP. "Social media can help people stay connected, share interests with others, and play some games."
Social Media and Seniors
Social media use among folks ages 50 and older nearly doubled in recent years, according to a 2010 poll by the Pew Research Center, rising to 42 percent from 22 percent during the year prior to the poll. At least one of every four seniors 65 and older now use social media.
"In the last year, AARP went from 60,000 fans on Facebook to over a million," Gordon said. "It was quite a dramatic jump."
Researchers have found that social media have many benefits for seniors. They gain a great deal of enjoyment from social interaction on sites like Facebook and Twitter, according to a 2013 review published in Gerontology, mainly by keeping in touch with others and avoiding loneliness.
Using Facebook also can improve relationships between grandparents and their children and grandchildren, a 2013 study in the International Journal of Human-Computer Studies found. The seniors began talking more frequently about a wider variety of topics, as their social media interactions gave them common things to chat about. They also began regularly keeping in touch and visiting each other more often.
Even the games featured on sites like Facebook can enrich people as they age. Compared with non-gamers, seniors who indulge in casual games on social media sites report less depression and better well-being, health, and social functioning, according to a 2013 study in Computers in Human Behavior.
Related:How Social Media Gave Me My Life Back
Good Sites for Seniors
Social media sites that you might want to investigate include:
Facebook. The granddaddy of social media sites, Facebook allows users to look up and connect with friends and relatives. Keeping in touch is key. "Facebook lets families stay in touch with what's going on day-to-day," Gordon said.
Twitter. This social media site provides a steady stream of short messages from as many people as you'd like to follow -- and your extended group can follow you as well. "Facebook is a social network, where Twitter is an interest-based network," Gordon said. "It's not based on the fact that people know each other, it's based on the fact that people are interested in the same things."
Pinterest. Gordon likens this social media site to online scrapbooking. Users share photos of things that interest them, which can then spark conversations. "People use it a lot for home improvement and gardening and cooking," she said. "It's very lifestyle-oriented because it's so visual."
LinkedIn. This site focuses on connecting professionals to one another, allowing them to network. "Most people who are in their fifties and sixties are still working," Gordon said. "If you're a professional or a leader in a cause, then it's definitely where people are interacting and finding news."
Google+. Google has leveraged the popularity of its search engine and e-mail services to create a social media network where users can keep track of each others' interests. "Just by having a Gmail address, they've grandfathered everyone in," Gordon said. "I think that's where we are seeing the dramatic growth in Google+."
Gordon has two caveats for seniors who want to become involved in social media: Be prepared to regularly update your privacy settings so you aren't sharing more information than you'd like, and be on your guard against online scammers who sometimes use social media to prey on the unwary.
"The only thing that's consistent about social networks is they are evolving," she said.
Video: Are Seniors using Social Media? U.S. Seniors - age 65+ Using Facebook , twitter, instagram
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